Keystone XL Pipeline Route
Introduction…After years of wrangling and what appeared to be a full stop by the Obama Administration in 2015, TransCanada Corp. has finally been granted approval from a U.S. president to build its Keystone XL pipeline across the Canada-United States border.
On Friday, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon Jr. signed the permit. But to make its way across the country, individual states where the pipeline would be constructed still have to sign off. And that’s easier said than done.
“While presidential approval is a major step forward for the pipeline, the battle is far from over as the company still needs to secure some of the land rights with landowners, still needs a permit in Nebraska and is expected to be met with protestor opposition,” said analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. in Houston.
Still, this long-awaited announcement was received with general applause from industry supporters, but it still has some hurdles in its path. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said the permit is proof that things have changed in Washington
Why is it so controversial…According to the above map, the existing TransCanada pipline starts in Haristy, Alberta and terminates at Patoka, Illinois and Port Author, Texas. Surely the short add to the Houston port is not a problem. So, what is the issue being disputed?
The planned 1,179-mile (1,897km) pipeline running from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would join an existing pipe. It could carry 830,000 barrels of oil each day.
It would mirror an operational pipe, also called Keystone, but would take a more direct route, boosting the flow of oil from Canada.
A section running south from Cushing in Oklahoma to the Gulf opened in January 2014. At the coast there are additional refineries and ports from which the oil can be exported.
The pipeline would be privately financed, with the cost of construction shared between TransCanada, an energy company based in Calgary, Alberta, and other oil shippers. US-produced oil would also be transported by Keystone XL, albeit in smaller quantities than Canadian.
Why do the US and Canada want XL?
Canada already sends 550,000 barrels of oil per day to the US via the existing Keystone Pipeline. The oil fields in Alberta are landlocked and as they are further developed require means of access to international markets. Many of North America’s oil refineries are based in the Gulf Coast, and industry groups on both sides of the border want to benefit.
An increased supply of oil from Canada would mean a decreased dependency on Middle Eastern supplies. According to market principles, increased availability of oil means lower prices for consumers.
President Trump said the project would create 28,000 construction jobs.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he will work with the new US leader regarding the pipeline, and that he was “confident that the right decisions” would be taken.
Despite the recent push to find renewable sources of energy and move away from fossil fuels, the amount of oil produced in northern Alberta is projected to double by 2030.
It’s argued by some that by developing the oil sands, fossil fuels will be readily available and the trend toward warming of the atmosphere won’t be curbed.
The fate of the pipeline is therefore held up as symbolic of America’s energy future.
In the here and now, more energy is required to extract oil from the Alberta oil sands than in traditional drilling, and Environment Canada says it has found industry chemicals seeping into ground water and the Athabasca River.
This risk to local communities is one of the reasons many have opposed the project.
The ongoing protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline near Standing Rock Indian Reservation makes for some good theater, but the protesters have as yet been unable to demonstrate that the pipeline actually trespasses on Indian lands or that it will likely lead to groundwater pollution.
Both trespassing and water pollution are serious issues that would rightly open up the owners — in this case, Energy Transfer Partners — to crippling lawsuits.
In North Dakota, however, the pipeline passes through private property and a likelihood of groundwater pollution has not been established.
In summary…Two and one-half million miles of pipelines cross the United States. There has been oil spills in the past. It appears that better inspections of these pipelines could increase saftety. As for the Keystone XL Pipeline, President Trump now passed the decison onto the states where pipeline would be constructed.
References: Dean Daugherty, “Trump’s Keystone XL Approval Moves Fight to Individual States,” Rigzone.com, 24 Mar 2017; “Keystone XL Pipeline: Why is it so disputed?” BBC News, 24 January 2017; Lena Groeger, ” Pipelines Explained: How Safe are America’s 2.5 Million Milles of Pipelines?” ProPublica, 6 December 2016.